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Opposition fills CRC meeting: Project decision delayed

Posted by on December 4th, 2009 at 2:57 pm

Packed with (mostly) opposition.
(Photo © Adams Carroll)

Opposition to the Columbia River Crossing (CRC) took center stage at this morning’s meeting of the Project Sponsor’s Council (PSC). From a protest outside the meeting, to over one hour of public testimony — the project’s key players heard that the project remains disliked by many people.

Opposition to the project, along with strengthening criticisms from Portland Mayor Sam Adams and Metro President David Bragdon were enough today to delay a vote on a package of “refinements” to the project made by CRC staff. Backers of the project hoped that the PSC would vote in support of that package (which trimmed $650 million off the project cost), moving the project forward toward construction as early as 2012.

The protest outside: “You
re-gifted us with
the same old crap!”

Outside this morning’s meeting, a protest action organized by the Stop the CRC! coalition drew attention from the media and passersby. The protestors waved anti-CRC flags, held signs, and there was even a bit of street theater. Stop the CRC! activist Shannon Palermo led her cohorts in a re-enactment of Christmas morning. When they looked into their gift from the CRC, Palermo said, “Oh look, they’ve given us the same old crap we’ve been sold for generations now… 10 lanes, 12 lanes, it’s still the same crap. CRC, you’ve re-gifted us… very tacky!”.

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In the Port of Portland headquarters where the meeting took place, an overflow crowd packed into a room and public testimony started the meeting off. Right from the start, Hayden Island resident Ed Garren laid into the project, setting a tone that would continue throughout the over one-hour of comments. Garren said CRC staff is “railroading through these refinements” and that he and fellow island residents “are getting shafted.”

Senior citizens from Hayden Island
showed up in force today.
(Photo © J. Maus)

“This bridge started out like a beautiful Lexus hybrid, now it’s a 20-year old Volvo that needs a ring job.”

Garren was the first in a long line of concerned Hayden Island residents. They are particularly upset by how the package of project refinements being proposed would pave over a central part of their community, including a Safeway, the only grocery store and pharmacy on the island.

As I heard person after person (everyone from young activists to senior citizens) testify against this project it became clear that the momentum was shifting. There’s simply no way elected officials and bigwigs can deny the extreme discontent many feel about the direction this project is going. The feeling in the room was in stark contrast to the tugboat-on-the-river photo op taken by Governor Kulongoski yesterday and the editorial in today’s Oregonian urging the project to move forward immediately.

“Every month this project is delayed, more people will not be able to pay health care, pay for their homes… I urge you to move this forward.”
— testimony from a man representing the construction industry

The project did have some support today. One woman representing business interests in Clark County, Washington said “If we intend to compete in the global economy, we must invest in our freight infrastructure… the business community is behind this project.”

A man from the construction trades said his industry is “in a depression” and that up to 40% of his tradesmen and women are out of work. “Every month this project is delayed, more people will not be able to pay health care, pay for their homes… I urge you to move this forward.”

North Portland resident Walter Valenta, who has been active on this project for many years, said this is all just one of many “milestones” the project has faced. “This is the belt-tightening milestone, but as we tighten our belt it’s important we don’t sell out the values of our community.”

The most moving testimony of the day was a senior citizen from Hayden Island named Pam. She broke down in tears as she expressed confusion and sadness that this project would take away her “only source of fresh foods and pharmaceuticals.” “I need our Safeway store,” she cried as she displayed a basket full of pill bottles, “You need to think before you tear down a store… please think this over seriously.”

Michelle Poyourow of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) said this new plan does no better in giving them what they want — a “great bike route and healthy neighborhoods on both sides of the river” — than the previous one. “The first plan failed, and the plan you’re considering today also fails. Show this region a truly green project we can support!”

When the avalanche of opposition was over, CRC staff presented details of their refinement package. After a presentation, PSC members finally got a chance at some candid dialogue.

Director of ODOT Matt Garrett.

Mayor Adams continued to pressed for taking more time and for having more frequent meetings to hammer out more improvements (based on the policy statement he issued with Bragdon yesterday). Backers of the project and CRC have created a sense of urgency for the project based on what they say are federal funding timelines, but Adams pushed back on that: “There’s no firm deadline from the feds to have the application considered… We do have more time than today or next month in terms of addressing some of these issues that we have.”

ODOT director Matt Garrett disagreed with Adams, saying “I think we need to move forward on this.”

TriMet GM Fred Hansen chimed in by stating something that by this time had become obvious: “Without consensus, I think it’s getting near impossible [to move forward].”

Metro President David Bragdon added what might have been the most lethal blow to the project to date. He said the refinement package as the “same flaws that were in the original proposal” and that “we’ve lost sight of the goals we set.” The particular goal Bragdon focused on was that the project would make Hayden Island “a better place”.

Bragdon added that “I cannot vote for any more blank checks for this project.” PSC Chair Henry Hewitt shot back with “I don’t see much benefit about discussing the points you’ve raised. I think you’re wrong about losing sight of original goals.”

Mayor Adams also raised a concern that was one of the early criticisms of this project — that funding it would drain federal transportation coffers for many years to come and “cannibalize other projects”.

In the end, Chair Hewitt decided to reconvene the PSC in January and said all staff would try to work more closely together on further refinements, performance measures, livability issues, Hayden Island, and so on.

The meeting has to be seen as a victory for Mayor Adams and David Bragdon, whose concerns were echoed by many citizens today. For anti-CRC activists and advocacy groups, there’s no indication that the project will be “re-started” or killed completely any time soon, but at least they’ve helped get it delayed; and with this project, delay could end up being fatal.

Additional reporting for this story by Adams Carroll.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Anti-CRC Grassroots Rising @ CRC Meeting + tons of articles « Stop the CRCJackattakjimrevKWW Recent comment authors
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AaronF
Guest
AaronF

“The meeting has to be seen as a victory for Mayor Adams and David Bragdon, as well as anti-CRC activists and regional advocacy groups who want to take however much time is necessary to build the right bridge.”

Anti – CRC activists want to build a bridge? I’m lost!

I hear you AaronF. I’ve made some edits that I hope make that sentence more clear. –Jonathan

Steven Vance
Guest

I think you’re doing a great job at keeping locals and outsiders (like me) apprised of the proceedings with this project.

It seems like the project has a lot of influence over the quality of life for Portlanders for decades to come.

It seems like the Safeway’s removal has become a bigger issue. Would you agree?

mykle
Guest

what still impresses me is that vancouver and portland completely disagree on almost every aspect of this project. thats always been true and is only getting truer.

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

Steven,

There was a busload of Hayden Island residents there this morning who certainly think so. As far as the broader scope of the project, it remains one of many fundamental flaws.

t.a. barnhart
Guest

it literally was a busload of Hayden Island residents; apparently they chartered a bus so folks could attend. and they got a lot of what they were after. of all the communities to be negatively impacted by the CRC, HI is the first to gain traction, apparently in large part because of the City’s agreement with them when they were annexed. even if this gives Ed G more airtime (sigh), it’s a good thing for the overall movement — and the islanders.

Hart
Guest

Take out two existing lanes and install MAX, leaving four lanes for cars on the existing brigde. Sorry construction workers, just building something to give you something to build is the ideology of a cancer cell.

Jeff Bernards
Guest
Jeff Bernards

This is my speech that I gave today.

I’m here today to speak against any further spending on the CRC Bridge. Spending $4.3 billion in the original estimate for the “necessary’ solutions when now $3.6 billion will accomplish the same thing? Why wasn’t $3.6 billion part of the original proposal?
The problem lies in the fact that you have neither the $4.3 billion nor the $3.6 billion, needed for either proposal. You seem unwilling to tell us, the public, what it’s going to truly cost us. If it’s a regional transportation necessity then a regional gas tax is in order. If you’re going to toll the new bridge to reduce traffic, then tolling the current bridge to reduce traffic should work. Tolling now would give us the money to repair the current bridges, when that finally becomes the obvious choice. The Least Cost Options should be used first not last.
I drove I-5 south during the evening rush hour. There were approximately 300 cars for every semi truck. Trucking companies know that waiting a few hours pays. If that trucking includes produce being flown up from South America, that’s unsustainable and will eventually end on it’s own., I don’t feel the need to build a bridge for that.

This is becoming a jobs program, we have lots of community needs that will create long term sustainable jobs without borrowing more money from Asia. Burdening me with debt is not a job stimulus.
TIME UP:
STUFF I DIDN’T HAVE TIME FOR:
The bridge is not an entitlement because people decided not to live where they work. The money should be used to create long tem sustainable jobs in Clark County and end the need for long UNSUSTAINABLE, commutes
Just build a Max/Bike/Pedestrian bridge to meet future sustainable transportation needs & fight climate change at the same time.
Sincerely
Jeff Bernards

peejay
Guest
peejay

Was I ever surprised — read petrified — that my name got called, and I had to think up what I was going to say as I walked to the microphone. (I guess I could have thought stuff up ahead). What came to my head was my personal story of how I moved to Portland because it was different from other cities. It’s a city that has stood up to politicians who wanted to ram an unneeded project through before (the Mt Hood Expressway), and we can stop the politicians again, before they turn our city into another freeway-crossed failed space.

I hope I got it right during the meeting, because I was pretty nervous.

Joe Rowe
Guest
Joe Rowe

I was there too. I spoke, and I after I was happy that the Couve Mayor Elect Leavitt gave me time to talk.

Sam got his delay, but this Monster will live, it will be built.

Leavitt will give Adams consensus on tolls if the Vancouver residents get vouchers for tolls. Adams supports Hayden Island residents who will get to keep their Safeway and other valid needs. Those are the only roadblocks, and they are soon solved.

The meeting and project is in the hands of old white men who think building roads like 1970 is the solution for 2020. They are using fear and lies to sell this bridge. At the end of the meeting they sounded like frat boys congratulating each other. THey will get their funding because Salem Reps like Chip Shields and Tina Kotek are spreading fear that any one who dislikes this project is a job killing socialist.

Adams is quoted as saying that Earl Blumenauer ( or someone in DC ) has put the earmarks requests in writing already.

Don’t be fooled, don’t spread the myth this is dead.

Joe Rowe
Guest
Joe Rowe

Seems my comment got deleted.

I was there. Nobody in the bike community should spread the myth that this was a win for bikes. This was a win for single occupancy cars. Adams had only 2 concerns and the good old boy club will hand those over ASAP.

a) The Vancouver mayor will OK tolls and his voters will get toll vouchers

b) The Hayden Island residents came with 600 signatures, and their concerns will be solved, like keeping the safeway.

Salem Reps Tina Kotek, Chip Shiles and Lew Fredreck are supporting this project. It will get funded one way or another. It is is already being sold on fear and too big to fail.

The sales pitch from the CRC good old boys and Salem: If you oppose this bridge or it’s delay you both hate jobs and want the economy to fail.

eric
Guest
eric

thanks to everyone who made it to the meeting today! i had to work (in construction, actually) but it sounds like one of the rare fun ones.

Anyway, don’t forget to email the state reps! They are the ones enabling this freakish-monster project with funding – they have the power to stop it dead in its tracks.

Hit up Kotek and Kahl in particular. Ask: How does doubling freeway capacity improve air quality? Demand facts! They ain’t got em.

Lisa G
Guest
Lisa G

I think it is ironic that the meeting took place at the Port of Portland’s headquarters with a busload of Hayden Island residents showing up. This may be just a taste of what’s to come..Round Three.

Joe Rowe
Guest
Joe Rowe

I hate to post too much, but I’ve got some good notes to share. I don’t want my notes to overpower this forum, and I encourage people to share thoughts even if they could not attend the meeting.

SE Cyclist
Guest
SE Cyclist

Eric:
You asked how “doubling capacity improves air quality.” I did a lot of air quality analysis work years back and learned that stop-and-go traffic is really, really bad for air quality – by a factor of five or even ten! Smoothly flowing traffic is good for air quality and fuel economy.

ME2
Guest
ME2

#14 how long is years back? I did some work in the 1990s and the consensus was to minimize turning your car off because of ozone pollution, but now its turn it off after 10 seconds because of improvements in starter technology. The other flaw in the thinking that smooth flowing traffic improves air quality is that those per vehicle improvements are offset by the fact that they allow for more vehicles on the road so overall air pollution levels go up.

jim
Guest
jim

The cleanest most efficiant driving method is to not move the accelerator up and down but to keep it as steady as possible. Everytime you push on the gas it gives an extra squirt of gas creating a richer fuel mixture, letting up on the pedal also changes the dynamics of the exhaust. smooth and steady is key to clean driving.

Peter W
Guest

Jonathan,

It seems there is debate about how ‘dead’ this bridge project is.

It seems like if other news outlets get the message that the project is a no-go, it helps the anti-crc side politically, but at the same time there ought to be more of a message from the CRC opposition to those working to oppose the project that there’s still work to be done. I’m not sure what to do about this, but for starters the opposition needs to get more organized.

Since lots of people probably want to know how dead the project is, I’d love to see an interview with someone who was involved with fighting the Mt. Hood Freeway. You could ask them what they think about the current situation as well as what advice they have for where to go from here.

peejay
Guest
peejay

Jim:

smooth and steady is never going to happen. Even if they added to the lanes of I5 all the way through Vancouver and Portland — which is not even being planned — smooth and steady driving will last about a year or two, then people’s driving patterns will change and more traffic will appear, until we’re back to stop-and-go. It’s what ALWAYS HAPPENS.

KWW
Guest
KWW

I support the bridge with the following caveats:

Dedicated Max or Trimet/C-Tran lanes, this is more important than bicyle lanes

Use of reversible/zipper lanes to maximise rush hour flows
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reversible_lane
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barrier_transfer_machine
If you want a smaller bridge, embrace the technology to make it happen.

Tolling for interstate truck traffic. Washington and California are beneficiaries of this bridge, as well as Oregon.

If the the North Portland crossing is seismically ok, why replace it? It has eight lanes right now. The existing light rail proposal does not rely upon it.

rev
Guest

Id like to know how seriously they considered a 3rd bridge option.

CRC you have drained so much from us… so much time, so much money, so much energy. Please shrivel up and die already!

jim
Guest
jim

I am in support of a new bridge, but not at this price tag. Sometime we will have to take care of our infrastructure as we have just outgrown what is in place now. It would be a shame to see all the money that has bean spent sofar all flushed away when they will need to do all the same things again. I think this could be built for a lot less money than what they claim it has to be. I’m not stressing over it, they will do what their going to do no matter what everyone thinks. I would like to see the traffic that is ideling on the bridge move at 55 mph (205 does that just fine). Yes there is still a problem at the rose qtr, that is not such a good freeway for a major city. Bring on the bulldozers and lets get to work.

Jackattak
Guest
Jackattak

@ AaronF, #1 –

I am Anti-CRC but I am not against a bridge.

Being Anti-CRC can simply mean you don’t like the current CRC project, not necessarily that you don’t want a bridge built.

Frankly I could care less if they build a bridge or not. If they find that to be the solution, and it’s relatively affordable, and there’s an emphasis on LRT and bike/ped over automobiles, and all automobile lanes are tolled, then I’m all for it.

Toll every single highway into Portland proper. Do it now and don’t waste another second.